Thursday, September 20, 2012

Portrait of a Romantic

Dana Goldstein:

Coleman counters this critique with the classic case for a liberal-arts education: that it teaches students how to think, providing a powerful intellectual foundation for any line of work. “Students need to be ready for their jobs to change,” he says, “and in order to be ready for change, students need the core tools of building knowledge: literacy and math.”

This passage is emblematic of the contradictions in Dana's Atlantic piece on David Coleman. What Coleman offers is not a case for liberal arts education, because the core of a liberal arts education is not "literacy and math." There are a variety of definitions, of course, but they are all much broader than that. In fact, what sets these standards apart from those of high performing countries is an emphasis on "literacy" at the expense of the disciplines of English/Language Arts and the humanities. The ELA Common Core is even weaker in the liberal arts than its immediate predecessor, Achieve's American Diploma Project, which was much stronger in rhetoric, for example.


Coleman was a lead architect of the Common Core standards, which emphasize canonical literature—think Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Pablo Neruda—and serious nonfiction texts across all subjects, from math (Euclid’s Elements), to science (medical articles by The New Yorker’s Atul Gawande), to social studies (the Declaration of Sentiments from the feminist Seneca Falls Convention of 1848). He has spent the past year traveling from state to state, showing English teachers how to lead a close reading of great literature.

Yes, these are so emphasized by the standards that they were pushed into an appendix.

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